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Should You Get a Heart Rate Monitor?

You've heard me talking about them and you've probably seen them on people at the gym: Heart Rate Monitors. Duh, duh dom.

I know they can seem scary and you may be thinking my heart is fine, I don't need to monitor it. True as that may be, heart rate monitors are used as a training tool more than a heart health monitoring device. They are not only for people with known heart conditions, everyone can benefit from wearing a heart rate monitor but some people will benefit more than others.

OK, so is it right for you? If you've ever thought one (or more) of the following, then I'd say you'd benefit from a heart rate monitor:

  • "I think I am getting a great workout, though I don't seem to be breaking a sweat."
  • "How do I know if I am really working out?"
  • "When I try and take my pulse, I often feel like I miscount or miss a beat."
  • "I want to try to use a variety of machines, but I am worried that I am not going to know if I am getting an effective workout from machine to machine."
  • "Sometimes I think my heart is going to pop out of my chest because it is beating so fast -- How do I know if it's beating too fast?"
  • "I have a really hard time holding on to those sensors on the machine while I am exercising and they never seem to really work anyway."
  • "I would like to shorten my workouts once a week by training really hard for a shorter period of time, but I am not sure how I will know if I am accomplishing this."
  • "I love this beginner group class I have been taking for a few months now, but should I move onto the intermediate level?"
  • "How do I know if I am warming-up or cooling-down?"

A heart rate monitor really takes the guessing out of working out. All you have to do is know where you would like your target heart rate to be and keep on keeping out until it gets there. Once you get there, keep it there. Can't get it there, work harder. Simple, eh? Not sure what your target heart rate should be? Check out Fit's Calculator to find out. There are lots of great heart rate monitors out there, but a good one to start is the Polar SF3.

Join The Conversation
Arthur Arthur 10 years
i got my first HRM about 12 years ago. I had been a passionate runner for 3 years, but had plateaued and was losing interest and not enjoying running much any more. when i got the hrm, i could see that i was constantly speeding up and slowing down and my heart rate would alternate between being way over target and way under target. using the hrm taught me a ton about how my body responds to exercise. first thing i stopped doing was sprinting to the top of hills and slowing down on the way down (duh). initially, running was much harder as i got into condition. getting in tune with my heart rate ultimately made my exercising much more fun and rewarding. HIGHLY recommended if you are even remotely serious about getting into good physical condition.
ccsugar ccsugar 10 years
I need one too... I hardly break a sweat on the elliptical anymore, I need to know how hard I'm working.
lovekailua lovekailua 10 years
i need one! the sensors at the gym say my heart rate from anywhere 105 to 180 and it just cant be...when it goes to 180 it scares me but it might not be accurate.
kungfubunni kungfubunni 10 years
I LOVE my HRM! it has helped me lose 10 lbs! It really pushes you because you may think you're working hard but when you see how low your heart rate is you realize how much harder you can go! plus they track your calories burned and time worked. AWESOME!
vigilante vigilante 10 years
So true, Nikolem2! I have a cheapie NordicTrack one now, used to have a basic Polar one. Awesome units if you're trying to keep to a certain training zone. I feel naked without mine too!
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
I should get one just to have something to show my doctor so she doesn't think I'm crazy.
nikolem2 nikolem2 10 years
I highly recommend using a HRM- it's a great investment and every exerciser should use one. Exercising without a HRM is like driving a car without a speedometer, b/c intensity is of the upmost importance when it comes to effectiveness and safety of cardio workouts. It's also good to know your calorie burn after each session, and HRM's are the best estimator of that. After I got mine a couple years ago, I can't believe I ever went so long without one. If I ever forget it or its low on battery and doesn't work, I feel totaly naked during my workout!
ChapstickAddict ChapstickAddict 10 years
Is there a heart rate monitor that integrates with the Nike+iPod system? If not, they should totally make one. I'd love to know my heart rate but I don't want to be wearing a million gadgets while I'm working out. If I could get one of those sports bras with the monitor band in it and have it wirelessly connect to my iPod, I would so do it.
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